How to afford an extended journey

money bagsOne of the most common questions we’re asked is, “How could you afford an extended journey like yours? How much did it cost? How much would I have to save to travel long-term?” That is a hard question to answer.

Trying to say how much an extended journey costs is a bit like trying to say how much a house costs. Or a car. Will you be satisfied with a small house in North Dakota? Or do you demand a mansion in the middle of Manhattan? Will an old, beat-up Toyota be sufficient to get you to work, or do you need a Rolls Royce?

I will say that we spent around $25,000 per year on our journey. That translates to roughly $50/day with a bit left over for incidentals. We lived quite comfortably on that. The total cost for our entire nearly-three-year journey came in at approximately $75,000.

John and I are, by nature, quite frugal. We’ve never had extravagant needs or wants and have always lived beneath our means. When we were traveling, that didn’t change at all. We camped a fair portion of the time in order to keep costs down, and stayed in cheap hotels ($15 – 30/night) the rest of the time. In the USA and Canada, we very, very rarely stayed in hotels due to the costs.

One thing we did not skimp on is food. We demanded a lot from our bodies, and had to provide good food for fuel. We ate a lot, and we ate well – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of meat, and tons of beans & tortillas! I suspect we spent more on food than most travelers, but it was worth it to us in order to maintain healthy bodies. Supermarkets were our best friends in expensive countries, but we regularly ate at restaurants in other countries.

stack of moneyWe are also of the belief that it is cheaper in the long run to buy good equipment in the first place. We spent a pretty penny buying quality gear before we left home, but that investment paid off many times over. We had very few equipment failures and didn’t have to replace much at all – despite putting it all through extensive use in demanding conditions.

So the question then becomes: How much will YOU spend? Only you can answer that question. Will you ride a bike and spend nothing on gas? Or will you put thousands upon thousands of miles on a gas-guzzling SUV or RV? Will you stay in 5-star hotels, RV parks, or camp in the wild? Cook your own food or eat in restaurants? Stay in one country or region for extended periods of time or flit from one country to another in planes every few weeks? Only you can answer these questions.

But one thing is sure – there is a way of traveling to fit nearly every budget on earth!


Here are some other posts I’ve written about the financial side of long term travel:

How to finance long term travel (with advice from many bloggers)


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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One Response to How to afford an extended journey

  1. Curious Nomad March 15, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Your story is inspiring! As I plan for my first RTW, I’m thinking about doing some bike touring to step up the challenge for the journey. It would give me a chance to interact with more locals and see more.

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